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Can Cats Eat Shrimp? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Shrimps

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

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Wait a second! Before you feed that cat those table scraps, you might want to first find out if shrimp can compromise its health in any way. You know it’s cool that you want your cat to enjoy a meal that you find delicious, but you also have to understand that sometimes caring is more important than sharing.

A lot of people fail to understand that certain human foods are off-limits when it comes to cats. These creatures might look ferocious on the outside, but on the inside, they are actually very delicate. We wouldn’t want shrimp to wreak havoc in there, now, would we?

Because we love cats so much, we’ve decided to share what we know about shrimp with all the cat lovers out there. So, to answer the question…

Can Cats Eat Shrimp?

The answer is yes, hey can eat shrimp. However, you also have to take into account risks involved, or as vets love to put it, “the dangers of feeding your cat shrimp.”

Everything has an upside and a downside. And if the downside outweighs the upside, you’re better off feeding your cat something else. Also, if you’ve gotten a green light from your vet, you shouldn’t serve it as the main dish.

All these things that we’re telling you will make a lot of sense once you’ve learned everything there is to know about shrimp, why some veterinarians think it’s good for cats, and why others don’t.

Big fluffy cat eats shrimp
Image Credit: Daykiney, Shutterstock

Reasons Why Cats Should Eat Shrimp

Low in Calories

Go ahead and take a quick look at your shrimp’s nutritional profile. You’ll be surprised to learn that there’s only 84 calories in a 3-ounce serving. And if you think that’s intriguing, here’s the kicker—It never comes with any refined carbs.

Several studies have concluded that a significant percentage of the calories consumed per serving always originate from protein, and a small percentage from fat. Additionally, in the same serving, your cat will also be getting different minerals and vitamins that are essential in the development of their immune system.

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Reasonable Cholesterol Content

We won’t even try to hide the fact that the cholesterol amount found in shrimp is 85% higher than that found in other seafood. It is, and we know it. Excessive cholesterol ingestion in cats can result in hyperlipidemia, a condition where the level of fats in the cat’s blood is higher than the normal range.

If consumed in moderation, shrimp shouldn’t be an issue for a healthy cat. Cholesterol is needed to create cell membranes (the envelopes that surround every cell), as well as for the creation of steroid hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D.

peeled shrimp close up
Image credit: Shutterbug75, Pixabay

Antioxidants

Have you ever heard of something called astaxanthin?

Well, it’s a tetraterpenoid—also known as antioxidant—that is found in shrimp. You see the thing is, shrimp loves to consume a lot of algae. And in that algae, you’ll find astaxanthin—the substance that makes shrimp appear reddish.

Astaxanthin has greater antioxidant activity than beta carotenes, vitamin C, vitamin E, and lutein.  It offers protection at the cellular level, preventing free radicals from damaging the cat’s body cells.

Additional Nutrients

Shrimp is not just a tasty treat. It provides additional and essential nutrients like calcium, selenium, vitamin B12, magnesium, and phosphorus. All of which are beneficial to the development of the musculoskeletal system.

shrimps
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Dangers of Feeding Your Cat Shrimp

Iodine Poisoning

Even though it’s rarely talked about, shrimp has high levels of iodine in it. It’s obviously not high enough to affect humans, but like we said before, cats are very sensitive. You cannot compare an average adult to a cat because people can consume up to 1000mcg of iodine, and not feel any effect.

Cats suffering from hyperadrenocorticism have iodine-restrictive diets, and shrimp might be contraindicated in these cases. Excessive iodine consumption can have detrimental effects on a healthy cat. And in 2009, the AAFCO adjusted cats’ dietary iodine recommendation to 150 Ug per 1,000 kcal of food.

person petting a sick cat
Image Credit: Alexander Andrews, Unsplash

Bacteria

Cats are usually more into raw shrimp, and not the cooked ones. And that’s understandable considering they love fresh meat. But the problem is, this fresh meat may contain a bacterium known as Vibrio. This bacterium is known to commonly cause health complications such as cholera and gastritis.

And that’s not even the worst of it. A couple of years back, there was a study that found out that there are at least 100 different strains of Vibrio. Furthermore, a substantial number of them have developed some form of resistance to antibiotics throughout the years.

Mercury Content

This is a conversation that we’ve had before. In fact, it’s made the news on several occasions, and even been the reason behind some of the “Conserve Our Planet” protests that have been going on. The mercury levels in the seas, lakes, and oceans have exponentially increased over the years, and the ripple effects have been seen in the seafood that we consume.

While shrimp has lower mercury concentration than oysters, crabs, and fish, a cat’s body is also smaller than a human’s, so trace amounts of heavy metals could have an especially detrimental effect on their health.

Any cat that’s been poisoned by methylmercury will appear weak, depressed, anxious, and even irritable. All these are nothing more than symptoms, as the main problem will be in the nervous system. That’s the area most affected by mercury.

And for the record, there’s no cure for this type of poisoning. Your vet could help you manage the symptoms, but neurologic and renal damage is irreversible.

sick cat covered in blanket lies on the window in winter
Image Credit: Germanova Antonina, Shutterstock

Antibiotic Use

A good fraction of the shrimp that we consume has been imported from other countries. As a matter of fact, if we had to work with a percentage, we’d say about 80 percent of our shrimp are imports because that’s the only way the market could meet the demand. And although we appreciate this increased supply, their qualities are questionable.

The imported shrimp are all farm-raised. And since farm-raised shrimp is very susceptible to different diseases, farmers in those countries always use antibiotics to treat them beforehand. We don’t really know how these antibiotics will affect your cat’s health, but we’re assuming it’s bad seeing as the FDA banned them.

Regrettably, the FDA has been stretched thin lately, so they can’t check everything that crosses our borders. That means you could be feeding your cat farm-raised shrimp with antibiotics in it.

We’ll reiterate this one last time. If you have to feed your cat shrimp, or if the vet recommends it as a treat, go for the wild-caught ones instead. That’s the only way you’ll be certain there won’t be any antibiotics to worry about.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Cats Eat Deep-Fried Shrimp?

If you are going to feed shrimp to your cat, please make sure it is plain, boiled shrimp. Deep-fried shrimp is cooked with excessive oils that won’t add any nutritional benefit for your cat. The batter used to coat shrimp is carbohydrate-based, and cats do better with a diet that is protein-based with moderate healthy fats and with minimal carbohydrates. When comparing the nutritional and caloric value, 100 grams of boiled shrimp have between 99-140 calories depending on the species, and most of these calories come from proteins. In contrast, 100 grams of deep-fried shrimp have a whooping 245-310 calories, and most of these excessive calories come from processed fats and carbohydrates. To sum it up, deep-friend shrimp does not provide ideal, species-appropriate nutrition for a cat.

Cute cat eating food from bowl
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What’s the safest way to feed shrimp to your cat?

First off, make sure all that meat is deveined, and doesn’t have a tail, head, or shell. In other words, no frills. Secondly, it’s best to feed the cat plain boiled shrimp, instead of one that has been cooked with different ingredients. The spices meant to make it tasty to humans could be toxic to cats. And lastly, feed it in moderation. Just because your feline pal loves it so much, doesn’t mean that it could be a meal replacement.

Is processed shrimp good for your cat?

That’s a hard no, buddy. You need to understand that all processed foods have ridiculously high levels of sodium in them, because sodium is known to be the best preservative. Add it to the herbs and spices used as seasoning, and we’ve got ourselves a recipe for disaster.

Frozen shrimp is okay, though. But still not totally safe, seeing as you can never tell where the seller got it from. It could be farm-raised. You never know.

What’s the difference between warm-water and cold-water shrimp?

Warm-water shrimp will be found in tropical and subtropical waters, whereas cold-water shrimp are found in the northern regions of North America. That’s the regional difference.

When they’re brought to the market, the cold-water shrimp won’t have shells while the warm-water shrimp will.

Warm-water shrimp
Image Credit: allybally4b, Pixabay

Where can you buy shrimp to feed your cat?

As mentioned earlier on, there’s farm-raised shrimp and wild shrimp. A small percentage of shrimp found in the United States is wild shrimp, and they’re often found in the coastal ocean waters.

The farm-raised shrimp will be found in ponds, as they have to be supplemented with formulated feeds. This type is the most common shrimp in grocery stores.

What do cats love?

Meat. Cats love meat, and more meat. But they can’t really differentiate between good meat and bad meat. That’s why they have you. They’re depending on you to help them exercise “self-control” or pick what’s safe for them.

Of course, there are times when you’ll see them devouring fruits or vegetables, but they’d prefer to eat meat over anything else.

grey cat eating meat
Image By: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

What types of bacteria are found in raw shrimp?

There’s a potential for contamination with Salmonella, Listeria, Escherichia coli, and Vibrio and some strains can be dangerous. If you’ve noticed symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach upsets, schedule a vet visit as soon as possible. Otherwise, the situation will worsen, and you might lose your cat.

Final Word

There’s no doubt in our minds that cats love shrimp. We know this, and so do you. But sometimes saying no to something is a way of showing love. So if you feel like shrimp could easily compromise your cat’s health, feed it alternative healthy snacks. If you want to change its diet, first talk to your vet. They’ll certainly have all the answers to any question that you might have.


Featured Image Credit: Jumpstory

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